My Inspiration

I was posed who inspired me to be where I am today, a million faces flashed into my mind and they were all women. And in that moment I realized how extremely blessed I am because I have a circle/ an army of women who inspire me, encourage me, and uplifts me to be the best version of myself. They encourage me to continually grow and to literally reach for the moon with all of my dreams. They do it through their own ambitions and their own success and they do it with their caring words.

I am here today because when I needed that extra push to take this leap of moving abroad, I GOT IT, I got it over and over again.

I do not where or who I would be without these women. My biological sisters, my long time girl-friends, those accidental friends, my sorority sisters,  women who I met in passing but were some how still able to pass their light onto me.  So thank you to those who have and continue to share their light with me.

Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.

 

 

 They encourage and inspire my dreams. They build me up when I allow doubt to creep into my thoughts. They lead by example and I was moved to tears when I thought of them. I never fully understood how valuable their friendships were to me and how much I looked up to them until I stood up and felt complete gratitude for having them in my life but somehow so ashamed that I didn’t realize this before. I feel like saying thank you could never be enough, I can only hope to pass on their light.
Happy Women’s History Month!
* Artwork was created by Nicholle Kobi- Checkout more of her creations on etsy.com/fr/shop/Nikisgroove *
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Negrita

Morena I can live with but DON’T call me Negrita. My skin tone is what I like to call an almondy-brown that I’ve always been in love with. I am proud to be a black woman, so when I am called Morena in a sea of gringos or light skinned Dominicans I respond. But on the occasions I hear Negrita, it makes my skin crawl.

Back in the summer of 2014, I naively took it as a compliment while studying in Costa Rica. During orientation, we were told that we may be called Megrita, we were told it was equivalent to being called the N word, we were told it wasn’t offensive, we were told it was okay, we were told we were just being called by the most obvious characteristic- so we embraced it.

From what I remember,  the other black girls and I would actually call each other Negrita and when a man would call is that, we saw nothing wrong with it.

A year later I found myself reading an article on being black in Latin America, particularly in Costa Rica and the term Negrita came up. From here I learned that Negrita was originally used to describe a black woman because she was thought to better in bed and sexually promiscuous.

Whether the word has transformed over the years, I don’t know, but I do know that I don’t want to be called by Negrita.

El Campó

Campó – Countryside – Rural Town

El Campó lifestyle is something special, it’s a slower pace and a humble lifestyle. Latrines and outdoor showers are typical and indoor plumbing is a luxury. When we bring medical teams to a campo to set up clinics for a few days it’s important to quiet your mind and prepare yourself for any situation. The most important thing to do is to humble yourself and assimilate to what your host family’s norm.

The first time I used a latrine was a couple weeks ago. It’s a lot better than what I had in mind, it was small but clean. The goal is to get in and get out, quickly. When I was dropped off at my host mom’s place, the first thing I took note of was the outdoor shower so I mentally prepared myself for a cold bucket shower. She showed me to the room I would be sharing with one of the doctors but before she left she pulled back a magical curtain and showed us the indoor bathroom. We had hit the holy grail of homes.

Our clinic days went pretty smoothly and a lot of people showed up, we ended seeing more patients than we planned. My role on clinic days simplified is making sure everything runs smoothly for the medical teams and to do intake for the patients… in Spanish. It actually went better than one would assume. When I have only one subject to focus on in Spanish I can pretty much handle it.

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The campo we went to was near the border and is called Vaca Gorda- “Fat Cow”. Being near the border I expected more Haitians and was sadly disappointed when I wasn’t introduced them. The characteristics of this community was a darker complexion than other areas of the DR, so I was really surprised that I didn’t hear any creole being spoken. When I had some time I ask the health promoter, our contact in the community, if there were any Haitians in this particular community and he said no, and said when they do come it’s just to work and then they leave.

But something interesting happened after doing so much intake, I started seeing little hints of a Haitian background in their names. They screamed Haitian even though they all had Hispanic last name. Maybe I’m forcing it but I do think they definitely have a Haitian background but just lost their culture through generation and that’s okay b/c it lives through in their names and their physical characteristics. In a culture that has so much hostility for the darker tone complexion and for their Haitian neighbors it makes sense for people to want to hide their background and assimilate to the Dominican culture but I can’t help but be sadden by it and hope that one day this won’t always be true.

On a chipper note, I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN! A typical person from a mountainous terrain might call it a hill but I’m from Florida…so it’s a mountain. After an afternoon of clinics we decided to hike up one of the mountainsides and found our way to a nearby river. We were lead by some experts from the community, a group of 6-10 year olds. The hike was a slight struggle compared to how easily the kids went up in their flip flops. But when we got to the top, the view was impeccable and breathtaking. The panting and the sweat was worth it. After taking the time to enjoy the scenery and take a gazillion pictures, we followed the kids to the river.

The second we got to the river, the children started jumping in. I love kids and even more, I love the sound of happy, laughing kids. So we sat around the river and just let the kids play. When we decided we were ready to head back, the smallest of the group decided to lead us back. We argued along the way whether he was 4 or 6. But we were also a little weary of following this kid, what if he got us lost? But his little man knew exactly where we was going and he was driven to get us back.

When you spend times in campos it’s easy to only see all that the community lacks but if you really take the time to open up your eyes you’ll see all the things they have, a sense of community, the assurance of knowing that if you let your kids hike over the mountain and out of your sight, that they’ll be back before sundown. There’s something peaceful about that and I love it!!

Guaguas are the cheapest and most commonly used mode of transportation in the DR. Its a hot and battered van made to carry about 10 people but for the sake of a profit every square inch of space is packed with passengers. I’ve been in a guagua with more than 20 people in it.

A few days ago I decided to go out to dinner with the other intern. We tried out this pizza place and then got frozen yogurt. It was delicious. We were having such a good time that we didn’t realize it was getting a bit late. Late like the last guagua might have left already kind of late.

When the other intern and I realized the time we rushed to the stop where we’ve previously taken the guagua. Before I continue this story I must say I was sitting in a weird position facing the rear and couldn’t see which way we were going. But less than 10 minutes in route, I get a text message saying “I think we got on the wrong one.”
I snapped my neck up and turned my head towards the front and realized that nothing looked familiar. It was dark outside, getting darker as we down the road. My first instinct was to get off near a crowd and then call one of the taxi drivers we knew but no one was on the road where the guagua was stopping.

At this point we had no idea where we were and super embarrassed. I then asked this guy next to me, where the last stop was, he didn’t know and asked the driver. The answer didn’t give us enough information to call our taxi driver. As we’re whispering among ourselves trying to come up with a plan this sweet sweet woman asked us if we were lost in ENGLISH. I was so happy to hear English come out of her mouth. Then she told the driver that the Americans were lost and the whole bus laughed but he said he would take us where we needed to go. I was so thankful for them because God only knows where we would have ended up without them.

The worst part of this story is the other intern is fluent in Spanish but we decided they’d take more pity on two non Spanish speaking Americans, so I old her to keep her mouth shut.

Not too long ago I was a soon to be grad, who had no idea what was next. I’d spent the previous few months biting off the head of anyone who dared asked me what I was doing after graduation. The truth was I feeling a bit lost , I had a few ideas but every time I started job hunting  I got discouraged and eventually gave up a little. Every job post I was interested in wanted a master’s degree or 5 years of experience and I had neither. Grad school entered my mind but all the programs I was interested in wanted you to have about 2 years of experience in the field. So towards the end of my semester, my lease was almost up and I was packing up to move back home. The idea of moving back home wasn’t a horrible idea to me, I saw as a break after a very difficult semester, but I also knew after 2 weeks the idleness would absolutely destroy me.

A few days before my graduation an opportunity landed at my doorstep, thanks to my big sister Manica and a Facebook post of her little sister’s accomplishment. How awesome is the power of Facebook and its ability to connect people whose paths would have never crossed. My new boss is someone my sister worked with during her undergrad years and with the power of a Facebook post it lead to me interviewing for the position I have now, a chance to intern for a non profit abroad for 6 months. My flights, accommodations, food, and health care would all be taken care of and I didn’t have any job prospects lining up for me.

So when I was given less than 2 weeks to pack, become CPR certified, read up on the organization and move to the Dominican Republic I did what any reasonable soon to be grad with a less than intermediate ability to speak Spanish would do and said YES.

I’m a little over a month in and I’ve already learned a lot. I’ve seen the gorgeous beaches, the mountainous ranges but I’ve also seen some of the most marginalized groups in the country and their living conditions. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve failed, and I’ve triumphed But it’s all part of the process and I’m thankful for it.